FOOTBALL

All-state QBs, SEC-bound linemen and more: Top Springfield players in the IHSA playoffs

Rochester High School's Keeton Reiss plows his way through Glenwood defenders during the game Friday Sept 23, 2022.
Bill Welt
State Journal-Register

The Illinois high school football playoffs commence this weekend on Friday and Saturday.  

A couple of top matchups in the area include No. 13 Auburn (6-3) at No. 4 Pana (8-1) in Class 2A and No. 14 Carlinville (5-4) at No. 3 Williamsville (8-1). Four teams from the Central State 8 are part of the Class 4A, 5A and 6A fields, led by state-ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin and Rochester.

Here are the following players to follow in this year’s playoffs. They are listed in no particular order.

One more Leonard Bowl?What to know about IHSA playoff pairings around Springfield

Keeton Reiss, Rochester 

The 250-pound senior quarterback is a defensive nightmare to bring down. He also has a good arm to boot and has thrown for 1,617 passing yards and 17 TDs with just two INTs for the Class 4A state-ranked Rockets.  

Sacred Heart-Griffin's KeShon Singleton runs the ball against Springfield High School during the game Friday Sept. 2, 2022.

Sacred Heart-Griffin passing game 

Good luck stopping the Cyclones’ aerial attack. Senior QB Ty Lott has completed 120 of 159 passing attempts for 1,927 yards and 29 TDs with just one INT. His arsenal of receivers includes seniors Madixx Morris, KeShon Singleton, Jake Hamilton, Kyle Long and Andrew McDowell. Morris leads the unit with 34 catches for 594 yards and eight TDs while Singleton, who is committed to the Air Force Academy, follows with 25 receptions for 364 yards and nine TDs for the unbeaten, Class 4A top-ranked Cyclones. 

Jacksonville's Elijah Owens (2) celebrates a touchdown run against Rochester in the first half at Rocket Booster Stadium at Rochester High School  in Rochester, Ill., Friday, March 19, 2021.

Elijah Owens, Jacksonville 

The Indiana State commit powered the Crimsons back to the playoffs through sheer athleticism. The senior QB has thrown for 973 yards and 11 TDs with one INT on 49 of 81 passing while rushing for 721 yards and 18 TDs.

Glenwood's Jack Knudson (2) looks for an open receiver against Springfield in the second half at Glenwood High School in Chatham, Ill., Friday, August 27, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Jack Knudson, Chatham Glenwood 

The senior quarterback has generated 1,635 yards and 21 TDs with just four INTs on 102 of 155 passing this season. He went 10 of 15 for 151 yards and five TDs in a 48-14 Central State Eight Conference win over Springfield High in Week 8. 

North Mac's Cooper Starks (69) prepares to block against Williamsville's Dustin Johnson (72) in the second half at North Mac High School in Virden, Ill., Friday, October 1, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Cooper Starks, North Mac 

Why not give an offensive lineman some love? The Vanderbilt commit has underpinned North Mac’s potent ground game that includes seniors Kaden Brown, Zane Hogan, Joe Reinhart and Reed Lewis. Hogan paced the ground game last week with 225 rushing yards and three TDs in a 32-6 Sangamo Conference win to clinch a share of the league title.  

More:Why this towering North Mac offensive lineman committed to Vanderbilt

Pana's Max Lynch, right, runs around North Mac's Kaden Brown during the game Friday Oct.14, 2022.

Max Lynch, Pana 

The senior quarterback has more than matched last year’s numbers that garnered him Class 2A all-state acclaim. He has already surpassed his own rushing records from last season with 1,821 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Lynch has additionally tossed for 1,030 yards and nine TDs on 69 of 136 passing attempts en route to a share of the South Central Conference crown. 

Tre Lancaster, Auburn 

The junior running back has been a reliable performer throughout the season with 151 carries for 1,122 yards and 10 TDs.

Dylan Lessman/Jaben Compton, Hillsboro 

The running back duo has helped shoulder the Wing-T offense following an injury to star player Blaze Helton. Lessman totaled 11 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-36 South Central Conference win over Litchfield. He also caught a 46-yard pass from quarterback Zane Duff in the second quarter.  

Williamsville senior quarterback Jake Seman rushes during the first half against Maroa-Forsyth at Paul Jenkins Field on Friday, October 8, 2022.

Jake Seman, Williamsville 

The senior quarterback has been one of the area’s top performers this season as a dual-threat athlete. He has accrued 1,904 yards and 26 TDs with just two INTs on 134 of 202 passing. He has also ran for 531 yards and 11 scores for the Bullets. 

Carlinville senior linebacker Zach Reels awaits the snap during practice on Tuesday, October 19, 2022. The Cavaliers have won five straight games to become playoff eligible.

Zach Reels, Carlinville 

The senior linebacker led a stout defensive effort in a 21-7 South Central Conference loss to Class 2A state-ranked Pana with a team-best 12 tackles. He leads the Cavaliers with 112 tackles. 

Jacksonville Routt senior quarterback/safety Kohen Hoots returns an interception during the second half against Beardstown at Freesen Field on Saturday, September 10, 2022.

Kohen Hoots, Jacksonville Routt 

The senior quarterback completed 12 of 25 passing attempts for 126 yards and one touchdown in a 34-20 Western Illinois Valley Conference upset over Class 1A state-ranked Greenfield/Northwestern in Week 9. He also ran for 84 yards in the win. For the season, Hoots has recorded 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 103 of 183 passing. 

More:Where and when Springfield-area teams play in the 2022 IHSA football playoffs

Afton Clark, Rushville-Industry 

The senior leads the Rockets backfield with 101 rushing attempts for 904 yards and 11 touchdowns. He only had three carries but for 70 yards and two TDs in a 64-0 win over Hamilton West Hancock in Week 9. 

Athens High School's Cory Craig Jr. pummels his way into the end zone for a touchdown against Auburn during the game Friday Sept 16, 2022.

Cory Craig Jr., Athens 

The junior tailback routinely leads the Wing-T offense and most recently cranked out 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 38-36 Sangamo Conference loss to Class 2A state-ranked Maroa-Forsyth in Week 9. He not only has 1,216 rushing yards and 18 TDs this season, but he also a team-best 70 tackles on defense. He forced a key turnover to come away with a 22-14 win over Auburn earlier this season. 

Contact Bill Welt: (217) 788-1545, bill.welt@sj-r.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt